Show Me the Money: 11 Ways Money Can Buy You ACTUAL Happiness

“Money can’t buy you happiness.”

That’s what people (even scientists!) say. In fact, one 2010 study found that people’s emotional well-being levels off when they received a salary over about $75,000.

And, for most people, that’s true: the tangible, patriotically designed, tightly woven shreds of fabric composed of a 75% cotton, 25% linen blend found in US currency is unlikely to bring you great joy (unless you have a fine appreciation for currency textiles). 

However, money can be spent in ways that do bring you deep, genuine happiness, and as someone who’s childfree, you have a greater chance of having more savings and disposable income, which puts you at an advantage to use it strategically to broaden your mind, deepen your connections, and overall enhance your life in a way that does buy you happiness.

Perhaps that’s why a 2021 study showed an increase of emotional well-being for those people with salaries up to and beyond $80,000, which completely contradicts the findings of earlier study. 

What’s the reason for these contradicting results? Perhaps it’s because the population of the first study looked at participants in 2007-2008 while the second study used data from people living between 2009-2015, which were two completely different economies; $75,000 in 2015 is very different from $75,000 in 2007. 

What’s more, neither study looked at the habits or activities the participants’ engaged in. Perhaps the 2007 group were struggling with the rescession and increased gas prices while the 2015 group were spending that money toward people, places, and things that added value to their life. 

While we can’t know for sure, but we do know that you can spend your money in a ways that achieves a greater sense of joy, connection, and purpose, and in this article, we’ll look at specific ways you can use your money to bring more happiness into your life.

1. Experiences

  • Positive Qualities: Experiences like travel, concerts, and adventure activities offer novelty, excitement, and the opportunity to create cherished memories.
  • What It Could Look Like: Planning a month-long backpacking trip through Europe, going to see a popular band or music festival, going on a safari, taking an excursion on a houseboat, or doing a themed tour of something you both enjoy (like finding the best pizza in Chicago, seeing all the musicals on Broadway, etc. 
  • Happiness Impact: These experiences can lead to increased happiness by providing a break from routine, promoting personal growth, and fostering connections with others.

2. Education

  • Positive Qualities: Education opens doors to new knowledge, skills, opportunities, fostering personal development and growth.
  • What It Could Look Like: Taking a college course, getting a new degree, or simply enrolling in a class to learn new skills, whether it’s for coding or cooking. Who knows! What you learn could open up brand new career opportunities you never knew were possible!
  • Happiness Impact: Learning can lead to a sense of accomplishment, increased self-confidence, and a greater understanding of the world, contributing to long-term happiness.

3. Health Practices

  • Positive Qualities: Investing in health and well-being can result in increased energy, reduced stress, and improved overall quality of life, not to mention opening up new goals and opportunities for physical pursuits.
  • What It Could Look Like: Investing in regular yoga classes, a gym membership, a marathon training coach, a therapist, and/or quality food that works for your body and goals.
  • Happiness Impact: Having physical and mental practices that let you feel physically and mentally well are closely linked to happiness and can lead to a more fulfilling and joyful life.

4. Philanthropy

  • Positive Qualities: Giving to causes you care about allows you to make a positive impact on society and fosters a sense of purpose, especially when you find a cause that is meaningful or has impacted you in some way.
  • What It Could Look Like: Donating a portion of your income to a local charity, starting your own foundation or charity, purchasing books for a local library, or hosting a charity auction. 
  • Happiness Impact: Knowing that your contributions are helping others in need can lead to a profound sense of fulfillment and happiness that naturally comes when you make a positive impact on the world. 

5. Hobbies

  • Positive Qualities: Hobbies provide an outlet for creativity, passion, and self-expression, offering a break from daily stresses and an outlet for your ideas.
  • What It Could Look Like: Dedicate a portion of your finances to paint, do a puzzle, knit, woodwork, write a novel, or do whatever you love (even if it’s not a source of income). Hint: you can tell that you love something when you walk away from it feeling better than when you started it.
  • Happiness Impact: Pursuing hobbies can lead to a sense of accomplishment, relaxation, and enjoyment, which brings a heightened sense of contentment.

6. Relationships

  • Positive Qualities: Strong relationships provide emotional support, companionship, and a sense of belonging.
  • What It Could Look Like: Hosting a family reunion, planning and financing a close-knit friends’ getaway, or booking a vacation for you and your partner.
  • Happiness Impact: Meaningful connections with friends and family can bring joy, reduce feelings of loneliness, and make your life feel richer and more vibrant.

7. Quality Products

  • Positive Qualities: High-quality items can improve comfort, convenience, and your experiences in daily life.
  • What It Could Look Like: Investing in an ergonomic chair and a standing desk for your in-home office, getting a durable set of pans to cook your favorite dinner, purchasing a home or apartment with plenty of light, picking a reliable and well-made car with personalized features, or buying high-quality headphones so you can listen to your favorite music and podcasts when you wind down at night.
  • Happiness Impact: Using reliable and well-made products can lead to less frustration and greater satisfaction with your daily routines and surroundings. While these items may not be indestructible or immune from going missing, having items that work for an extended amount of time lets you float through your day with greater comfort.

8. Travel and Exploration

  • Positive Qualities: Travel exposes you to new cultures, perspectives, and experiences, fostering personal growth and broadening horizons.
  • What It Could Look Like: Visiting national parks, taking a summer trip to Ireland, and or doing a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail.
  • Happiness Impact: Exploring the world can lead to increased happiness by creating lasting memories and promoting a sense of adventure and discovery that whose value lasts far beyond the cost alone.

9. Self-Care

  • Positive Qualities: Self-care activities help you recharge, reduce stress, and maintain mental and emotional well-being.
  • What It Could Look Like: Getting a massage, buying a subscription to a meditation app like Headspace, or booking regular weekend getaways to a beach, mountain, or tranquil location of your preference to disconnect from technology, relax, and rejuvenate.
  • Happiness Impact: Prioritizing self-care can lead to improved mental health, increased resilience, and a greater sense of balance and contentment.

10. Home Improvements

  • Positive Qualities: Enhancing your living space can create a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing environment.
  • What It Could Look Like: Renovating your kitchen to create a more functional and aesthetically pleasing space, getting a higher quality washer/dryer, putting in granite counters, replacing your rugs, or putting solar panels on your roof.
  • Happiness Impact: While touching up your house feels like a small thing, creating a welcoming and well-maintained home can lead to increased satisfaction in your daily life.

11. Investing in Relationships

  • Positive Qualities: Putting your money toward strengthening relationships with loved ones fosters deeper connections, trust, and emotional support.
  • What It Could Look Like: Financing a girls’ trip, traveling to a reunion or wedding, scheduling an annual visit to friends/family who are far away, or investing in couples’ therapy to strengthen your relationship with your partner.
  • Happiness Impact: Building and nurturing the relationships in your life can lead to increased joy through companionship, shared experiences, and a sense of belonging.

These are just a few of the people, places, and things that can help you cultivate happiness in your life. Ultimately, the pursuit of true happiness involves a combination of these elements, and the specific balance will vary from person to person. It’s important to align your spending with your values and prioritize what brings you the most joy and fulfillment on your unique journey towards happiness.


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